While certainly not true across the board, Cherry MX, and mechanical keyboards as a whole, are often stereotyped as being a joy to use but far too loud or extravagant for day-to-day work use. I may personally disagree with that notion, but it’s clear that the new Cherry MX Board Silent revealed at CES is designed from the ground up to quell those misconceptions. The MX Board Silent is a classically designed keyboard that doesn’t catch the eye, outfitted with the innovative Cherry MX Silent switches capable of creating a typing hush.
The design is about as simple as you can achieve, with a sturdy plastic shell, high quality PBT plastic key caps, and genuine German-made Cherry MX Silent mechanical switches. After making mechanical keyboards with Cherry MX switches for over 30 years, Cherry is confident enough in their own skin to continue producing classical quality keyboards without feeling pressured to change their core designs. The case is a shell of plastic and although it doesn’t weigh much, it feels as tough as a tank in the hand. It may not have the sleek appeal of an aluminum case, but it possesses a sturdy construction with a minimal design that you’d see from vintage keyboards in the 90s.
The inspiration from the classic Cherry G80-3000 shines through. The MX Board Silent looks nearly identical, available in four combinations of the MX Red Silent and MX Black Silent switches and black or white cases. It’s a sleek white or black design that can fits anywhere without looking out of place. I’m a fan of the quality materials and construction. My only reservations with the design are the lack of some modern features like dedicated media keys or a detachable wire and the large plastic bezels on the keyboard that add to the device’s footprint on your desk.
The Switch to Squish the Noise
The MX Silent switches, originally introduced in 2015 as an exclusive in the Corsair Strafe RGB, are linear key switches designed and manufactured by Cherry. They’re available in two levels of resistance: the light MX Red Silent and the heavier MX Black Silent. Both have actuation points of around 2mm down and bottom out after 3.7mm of travel. However the MX Black Silent require 60 centinewtons of force, where the MX Red Silent are lighter at only 45 centinewtons.
While I was a little tepid, I quickly grew to love the MX Silent for what they are, smooth linear key switches quiet enough to use without attracting any disturbances. Linear switches refer to mechanical switches with no tactile bump, instead they have a smooth travel all the way to the bottom of the key press. I opted for the lighter MX Red Silent 45 centinewton variant and really enjoyed taking the MX Silent for a ride. They’ve got a pretty smooth travel with a very quiet, yet satisfying, thump at the end of the key’s trajectory. Cherry has acoustically engineering the switch to be silent, with uniquely shaped rubber pads and integrated 2-component stems to create a more muted experience. From basic A/B testing, they sound about half as loud as my Cherry MX Clears and only a little deeper and louder than my Laptop’s chicklet style keyboard. They’re snappy, super satisfying to use and shockingly silent.
The noise that the keyboard produces while typing truly a treat to the ears, without be a nuisance to co-workers or family. Despite the well-designed acoustics that allow the MX Board Silent to achieve its namesake, I did find that under a firm finger, the keys in the center of the keyboard (most noticeably f, g, h, F5, F6, t and b) produced a slight echoing ping when bottomed out.
Transitioning to the Goliath
Coming from a tiny 60% keyboard with heavy tactile Cherry MX Clears (Vortex Pok3r), using the full sized monolithic Cherry MX Board Silent with its light linear MX Red Silent 45 centinewton switches was big a transition.
The new ergonomics of having a bigger keyboard were an adjustment, not an issue. After a few days, I was well adjusted and up to my full typing speed on the keyboard. Beyond the full sized layout, the MX Board Silent’s tank-like plastic shell extends the footprint of the keyboard even further to that of a monolithic desk companion at 18.5-inches x 7.5-inches. I have the desk to accommodate it, but I still needed to push back notes and drinks to adjust for my desk’s new centerpiece. And while at home I have the desk space for it, unlike my Pok3r that I can easily slip into a backpack, I’d never think to take the MX Board Silent on the go.
Conclusion of the Silent King
Cherry’s asking price of $149 MSRP is a little steep when comparing it to other keyboards in the price range with features like back lighting, aluminum cases, function and dedicated media keys. But you’re gaining a keyboard with a very unique blend of new and rare switches perfect for shared environments like an office with reliable rugged construction and historical technology roots.